The letters EMDR stand for Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is a powerful new method of doing psychotherapy that has been proven, through research studies, to reduce the impact of traumatic memories. No one knows exactly how EMDR works. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain tends to process information in a way that can negatively impact their mental health. One traumatic moment can become ” frozen in time ” and stored within at a body level. When one remembers a trauma it can feel as if they are experiencing it all over again with similar body sensations, images, etc. A traumatic memory can be triggered by many different things and can cause a great deal of discomfort. Such memories can have a lasting negative effect on the way one sees the world and relates to people that interfere with his or her life on many levels.
EMDR is a collaborative approach in which the therapist helps the patient to identify the images, negative irrational beliefs, emotions and body sensations associated with a targeted memory or problem. The patient is then asked to develop a new positive belief or cognition about the self that will replace the negative one that is associated with this event.The strength of this new belief is rated while the patient is still thinking of the disturbing event.
Following this, the patient is asked to bring to mind all of the negative components associated with the memory/problem. The therapist then introduces the bilateral stimulation by directing the patient’s eyes to voluntarily move from side to side in a horizontal fashion. After each set of eye movements, the patient is asked to very briefly comment about what they are aware of at that moment. Thus, begins the reprocessing of the event on a physical and or cognitive level. The therapist works to support the patient while continuing the processing and providing intervention as needed.
The goal of EMDR is the rapid processing of information about the negative life experience and movement toward an adaptive resolution. This results in a reduction in the patient’s distress and a shift from the negative belief associated with the experience to a positive belief and the prospect of functioning more optimally.
To learn more about EMDR and to obtain references and a bibliography of research on EMDR you can visit the EMDRIA website at www.emdria.org.